Johnston sees jump in visitor spending
BY ABBIE BENNETT
The Smithfield Herald
More people are visiting Johnston County and spending more money here, according to a recent report from Visit North Carolina.
The amount of money spent by visitors to Johnston climbed 3 percent in 2015 over 2014, to $221.72 million up from $214.94 million the year before, according to the report.
Donna Bailey-Taylor, head of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, thinks those good numbers stem in part from her office’s efforts to bring visitors here. “The Johnston County Visitors Bureau continues to invest in tourism-development projects,” she said.
Last year, the bureau handed out $70,000 in capital grants, completed a countywide parks and recreation study, spearheaded Smithfield’s wayfinding project and grew membership in the JoCo Hospitality Association, Bailey-Taylor said.
Those visitors add up to dollars for hotels and attractions and the people they employ. State and local tax coffers benefit too, according to the report.
The county’s travel and tourism industry employs 1,770 people who earn more $34.65 million a year, acccording to the Visit NC report. That’s an average wage of $19,756. Meanwhile, state tax revenue from travel and tourism in 2015 was $12.46 million; local tax revenue was another $5.55 million.
Put another way, according to the Visit NC report, if not for travel and tourism, each of the county’s 60,700 would pay $297 more in taxes each year.
Statewide, visitors to North Carolina spent a record $21.96 billion, according to the report, up 3 percent from the year before.
This year, Bailey-Taylor’s office plans to market Johnston County to small meetings. “Our location adjacent to Raleigh, which is rich in association and government meeting planners, is a key area for our sales team,” she said.
For the leisure market, Bailey-Taylor said the bureau will focus on bringing more shops and hotels into the “Girlfriends Getaway” package. It also aims to expand the new Sip & Stay package, which promotes hotel stays near Johnston’s Beer, Wine and Shine Trail.
For more information on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, call Donna Bailey-Taylor at 919-989-8687 or go to johnstoncountync.org.